Rally review, July 1967

Canadian Shell 4,000 Rally

The Canadian Shell 4,000 Rally is the World’s longest event held under F.I.A. rules at the moment and the longest anyway with the demise of the Round Australia Trial. This year it provided several “firsts.” The first win for a non-Canadian crew, the first international rally win for Boreham’s new ’67 shape Lotus Cortina (an early baptism considering it took the old-shape nearly four years before semi-privateer Gilbert Staepelaere won the Geneva last year) and a long-awaited first major win for Roger Clark.

Over a complete week of almost continuous motoring faced the ninety-three starters in Vancouver, British Columbia. and of these, just over one-half made the finish at Expo ’67 in Montreal. The route was most interesting and demanding in the Rockies (two days), and the rural roads of Quebec and Ontario (last three days); the intervening three days over the featureless Prairies were boring to say the least, although the organisers had done their utmost in finding three stages and some rough roads. Talking of special stages these numbered twelve over mountain tracks and logging roads, or over the sand and gravel wastes of army camps. In addition there were three race tracks.

A total of 250 miles saw a marking system whereby in each of the six capacity classes the fastest scored zero, others losing one point per twenty seconds slower than that. This method of marking is antiquated by European rallying standards being only used in straight hill-climbs where power is the major criterium. Over up-and-down tests of flat forests the driver’s much prefer to be on scratch; Roger Clark, for instance, would probably have felt cheated if beaten by an expert driver in say, a Jeep Wagoneer (Blair Bunch and Doug Bland got theirs to seventh overall incidentally) after having battled rally-long with an ace driver like Paul MacLennan in his own class. To partly offset this the organisers had set varying target times for each class on each stage, but this had the undesirable effect that over 5-litre cars had to go 20% faster than under 1-litre vehicles!

Despite this difference from European ways of thinking the event was well organised for one on such a large scale and the marking has improved boundlessly from the regularity sections of only a year ago. The manufacturers’ team award is one aspect which is treated quite importantly in Canada, indeed, more note of it is being taken in Europe now and even in the U.K., and the battle was mighty before the Datsuns finally scooped the precious prize with 3rd, 11th and 18th places. After having led for five days the Citroën hold was broken when Keith Ronald and John Medwell had their DS21 hopelessly mired in a deep water-hole near the shores of Georgia Bay. They were eighth at that time. The Ford Cortina-Lotuses then took over the team challenge but lost Anita Taylor and Terry Gillies when Mrs. Gillies committed a navigational error on the seventh day; they too became irretrievably bogged, so leaving the Datsuns to it.

In the Ladies’ Cup, Rosemary Smith performed impeccably as usual and had taken the Coventry-prepared Imp as high as eighth overall when she too got stuck in the 100-yard water-hole by Georgia Bay. Luckily the Imp was more easily extractable than the Citroën and she only dropped to 17th, finally recovering to 13th. The area round Georgia Bay incidentally is the scene of the Canadian Winter Rally, by reputation a very tough all-snow event.

The battle for top honours lay mainly between the fast European cars of Paul MacLennan (last year’s winner), Roger Clark, the private Smith/Catto Lotus, and the Schutz/Manson Datsun. MacLennan led from Vancouver for the first six days but then he clouted a sandbank on an army camp special stage and deranged his suspension, and to cap it all, lost his clutch and third gear. The sixth day also saw the Herb Felton/Jim Callon Austin Cooper S drop from sixth place when the Mini’s drive failed. After the Prairies the Schutz/Manson Datsun had been second but they lost time rolling the car on the way to the St. Jovite special stage and were penalised at the finish for having a seal broken on the engine, this dropping them to third behind the very steadily driven Scott Harvey/Mike Kerry Plymouth Barracuda.

Winners of the mixed crew award were Ogier/Pointet. They had been fifth up to the fateful sixth day but lost points digging fellow teammates Ronald/Medwell’s Citroën DS21 out of that hole! The third Citroën dropped heavily to fifth place when they had two punctures on the seventh day as well as a chat with the law in Ottawa. Much to Henry Taylor’s delight, Roger Clark and Jim Peters arrived unscathed in Montreal to a huge electric signboard welcome at the end of this the Centennial Shell 4,000 Rally. – A. E. A. K.

Acropolis Rally

Just as the Shell 4,000 provided a number of firsts so did the Greek Acropolis Rally. The first all-British win in its 15-year history (a Jaguar XK120 won in 1953 but with Greek driver, Papamicheal, at the wheel and, of course, last year Ford won with Bengt Söderstrom in a Lotus Cortina); and the first time that B.M.C. have won this event in all their years of trying. Paddy Hopkirk and Ron Crellin came home first last year only to be penalised at the eleventh hour for working within a control area, this dropped them to third overall, so this time their victory was a doubly pleasant one for all concerned.

There had been some rumours that the Rally would be cancelled due to elections scheduled for the same date as the last day of the rally, but due to the coup this reason vanished and so the club hastily re-telegrammed everyone. However, on the advice of the Swedish Consulate in Athens many of the numerous nomadic Swedes stayed at home, including the Saab and Volvo works teams, so helping to reduce the entry to 72. The real contest lay between only seven cars. Three each from B.M.C. and Lancia and the lone works Lotus Cortina. The Ford only came because Henry Taylor had promised Söderstrom a ride on the Acropolis if he won the R.A.C., and, of course, Bengt did. One should remember that Fords are having a reduced programme this year to develop the new car and can be expected back in 1968 in full force.

In the usual tradition few managed to get to the finish, this year only 18 making it. No complete team managed to hold together (the Austrians competing for the National Team Prize held longest) and no ladies’ crew finished either.

Firstly though a quick description of the event. Originally it was designed as a punishing tour of Greece’s more dreadful roads – not that there are a majority of good ones – and the 3,000 km. of near continuous goat-tracks and stony un-made surfaces combined with searing sun and choking dust were enough to widely separate the finishers besides decimating them. Just to make sure of continuing interest for untroubled competitors there were a number of special stages with set ”bogey” times and three hill-climbs for classification or tie-deciding purposes. Time lost was often expressed in minutes and hours rather than seconds.

The Greek government have slowly helped change this picture by improving the major roads (called National Roads) to very good tarmac, albeit slippery from the ever-present covering of dust, and the minor ones have also become quite navigable. Hence the rally, although still rough by other on-the-road events, is no longer the car-breaker that once it was, a position helped greatly by the amount of recce-ing that works crews now do, in some instances for two or three weeks. Cars can now be accurately paced and take it easy over extra-tough stretches, knowing that time can be made up when the road improves.

As last year, the crews started from the foot of the Acropolis in the centre of Athens, then went westwards to the Pelloponnessus; a clockwise tour of this island-peninsula then across the ferry at Patras and northwards along the west coast. At Jaannina near the Albanian border they turned inland over the long and craggy ranges which scythe their sun-scorched path south-eastwards across Greece in tapering finger-like formations. A loop in the second night around ancient Thessaloniki and back south along the east coast to Volos. Then wriggling inland to the Distomon near the ancient site of DeIfi before visiting Marathon and then to the evening finish in Athens. A total of some fifty non-stop hours of driving is accomplished.

With this route and format the struggle for top honours can be broken down into seven parts; four of the sixteen special stages had unattainable target times and the three hill-climbs were marked on a scratch basis. The works Minis led for the first night and most of the next day followed by the Andersson/Davenport Lancia Fulvia HF and then Söderstrom’s Lotus with the other two Lancias making up the septet. First out was the Rauno Aaltonen/Henry Liddon 1293S when demolished by a spectator’s car speeding down a stage to visit the scene of Walter Roser’s (Gordini 1300S) spectacular 150-foot plunge. All persons involved escaped serious injury but highlighted the problem of stages which are ineffectively closed and then only to oncoming traffic! Marjetta Aaltonen had already crashed when the brakes failed on her Finnish importer-entered Datsun 1600SS. The land of Gods obviously didn’t smile on the Aaltonen family that weekend.

Toivonen retired his works Lancia soon after this when the smell of petrol from a punctured tank got too unbearable in the heat and Timo Makinen/Paul Easter lasted the second night only to retire at Volos when a tooth punctured the gearbox casing after first gear stripped. The final positions had already been decided during the night on the Thessaloniki loop at the two Arnea stages. The first one was a tight steep and wriggly 28 km. climb which saw Hopkirk dropping 40 sec.; Andersson 84 (the Fulvia was badly geared here, neither first or second being right); Cella 90, and Söderstrom 94. From the top of the hill the second part was very fast and here Söderstrom pulled back by only dropping 12 sec., but his position had already been set by other seconds dropped earlier; Andersson lost 59 and Cella 77. Makinen dropped 76 and a magnificently quick 1 second and so kept his lead at that point until of course, Volos. The other two uncleanable tests were the 6th (Deskati – 28 km. – only loose stage) and very peculiarly the last Marathon test it was “on” last year!). On these two the leaders were fairly evenly matched. Hopkirk was fastest on all three hill-climbs and Söderstrom pulled thirteen and a half seconds back from the Lancia but nevertheless lost out through his other performances as he only cleaned eight stages to the Swede’s ten. Leo Cella generally just wasn’t in it.

In the new-innovation department the Abingdon cars had miniature sliding clamps fixed between the tops of the four Lucas 7 in. spots and the grille, this at last being an effective vibration damper, and a 1100-type condenser tank had been fixed inside by the co-driver’s feet to catch boiling over-spill water, thus keeping the pressure up and helping alleviate their constantly overheating engines. Trouble was had with engine stabiliser rubbers (Hopkirk used four) and there were occurrences of the hydrolastics sagging over the rough roads. Makinen’s gearbox wasn’t right from the start, it having been changed already with a recce car’s. To work on a Mini’s engine it’s easier to turn the car on its side, but care has to be taken since inversions on the offside will cause oil to run through to the clutch. This happened to the winner and although threatening slip was cured, the car ran its bearings on the final circuit race when surge deprived the pick-up tube of liquid. The re-routed oil-pipe as used in racing, hasn’t been homologated yet. The Cortina had a grumbling starter motor which was changed as a precaution but apart from that, enjoyed a trouble-free run – and a dust-free one as well, the inside of the car looking comparably clean to cars without aero-flow ventilation systems. One felt that Palm had perhaps under-estimated the toughness of the event and had set their pace just that little bit too slow to win for undoubtedly both car and driver are capable of victory. In Ove Andersson’s words the Lancias weren’t that quick, “but they strong” and coupled with a good recce he achieved second overall. It was interesting to see in the race that the Mini can still out-accelerate the Ford and that the Lancia wasn’t so far behind,

Of the rest, Austrian champion Dr. Arnulf Pilhatsch drove his B.M.W. 2000TI to a creditable fourth place after Cella dropped even lower in the classification from road-penalties incurred by his erring co-driver. Opel Rekords also did well with the winner of the first Acropolis Rally coming fifth in his and Dieter Lambart lying fourth until an hour before the finish when a broken differential pushed him to 11th. Swede Jan-Erik Lundgren dropped from a possible fifth after running out of petrol in the last 12 hours (more errors or breakages occur in this period than at any other time) and ended up just behind fellow countryman Rune Larsson. Both were in Volvo 122Ss and apparently the new 144S Volvo is receiving a cool reception as a competition car in Scandinavia. Perhaps more favourable will be the Datsun 1600SSs, two of which came 6th (Rain Halm) and 7th (Hans Laine).

The club organised well, despite there being too many cooks in the results broth, and with no protests, so let us hope that 1968 sees a more competitive entry list for this fine event. – A. E. A. K.

Boley Pittard

Boley Pittard, the 29-year-old Jersey driver who won the Motor Sport Brooklands Memorial Trophy in 1964, died tragically last month following an accident at the 16th Coppa Autodromo Monza Formula Three race. After making fastest time in practice, his car caught fire at the start of the final.

Pittard came to London in 1960 after taking part in motorcycle and car races on the sands of St. Ouens Bay in Jersey. He earned his living by working as a kerbside car salesman in the legendary Warren Street district and became a successful karting driver. He took up car racing in 1964 with a Ford Anglia prepared by Willment, winning a total of twenty races that year. He was hailed as the discovery of the season and won a Grovewood Award. The following year he drove an Alfa TZ and a Willment Lotus 35 Formula Three with some success. in 1966 he removed to Italy and became works driver for the B.W.A. Formula Three team. This season he moved to a similar position with another Italian constructor but in the last few races drove a privately owned Lola with which he was showing much promise. “Bo” Pittard was one of the larger-than-life characters that make the sport of motor racing so intriguing. – A. R. M.

A Sports station wagon

The latest Peugeot 404 de luxe in load-carrying form

I have driven most Peugeot models and variants and have enjoyed them all. Over the May Bank Holiday I borrowed one of the latest 404s, in the form of the de luxe station wagon, using it to move some furniture and to go down to Beaulieu, crossing Hampshire by the back roads. If I were a habitual load-carrier or a genuine farmer or anyone whose calling entails the need for a car with maximum stowage and weight-carrying capacity, there is no vehicle in which I would rather invest than one of the big Peugeots.

If I was once heard to ask why don’t we all have Lotus Elans (unless more than two seats are required), I also frequently query why more people do not run shooting brakes or estate cars or station wagons – call them what you will – given the space in which to store them and the need from time to time to fill them to capacity with children, animals or hardware. Since the war such vehicles have become refined and even handsome and are in almost all ways an excellent substitute for the inevitable saloon.

This is particularly true of the Peugeot 404. In de luxe form it has a handsome polished floor, rubber slatted to prevent damage from the load, and in all respects compares with the saloon version for equipment and trim. And all Peugeots are so practical!

There is that steering-column gear lever working in three planes, away from you for reverse and first, centred under spring-loading for second and third, and up and away from you for high top-gear – French logic, and an action that seems especially appropriate to the shooting-brake version of this durable, Safari-proved car. There is the r.h. stalk controlling all lighting permutations, obviating the duplicated controls of other cars for putting on the required lamps and then dipping/flashing them, and that all-metal under-scuttle handbrake and ratchet, sensibly angled for easy operation with the right hand.

Moreover, this long Peugeot 404 handles surprisingly well – no surprise, in fact, to those who have had experience of these cars. The Peugeot 404 de luxe is veritably a sporting station wagon, with quick, accurate light steering, excellent driver-vision with both front wings in full view, powerful, light but too-sudden servo drum brakes, and presenting unexpectedly good performance to those who, never having driven one, see it only as a large, substantial-looking brake. Moreover, it is superbly economical. I did not do a fuel consumption check or take any performance figures. But this six-seater with stowage space behind the back seat, a seat which folds very quickly to convert it to a real load-carrier, was returning around 30 m.p.g. of 4-star petrol, cruised on a whiff of throttle at an indicated 65 m.p.h. with a lot more speed to come, was delightful to drive, in characteristically Peugeot fashion, and quiet running, only a whisper from the carburetter-intake being heard at normal speeds.

The Peugeot 404 de luxe weighs about 23 1/2 cwt. unladen and can take driver, one passenger and a payload of 9 cwt. (450 kg.) and 1 1/2 cwt. on its roof rack, for which there are permanent fixtures; it can haul nearly 1 1/2 tons at 50 m.p.h. It has a big lockable illuminated cubbyhole, horn-ring, rubber mats for the passenger compartments, very comfortable fully-reclining front seats, convenient well-placed door handles and grabs, very efficient adjustable facia fresh-air vents, sensible heater controls, accessible fuses, pendant pedals, and Jaeger instrumentation, with logical symbols, consisting of transistor clock with seconds’ hand, speedometer with trip mit decimal and total odometers, gauges recording fuel contents, water heat and thermal voltage, and a steering lock. It is easily loaded through the lift-up self-supporting tail-gate and Michelin “X” tyres help it to cling to the road. It is not surprising that the Peugeot is such an individualistic car, because it is built in a factory deep in the south of France which manufactures its own steel and perhaps more of its own components than any other – items like wiring-looms, cylinder liners, brake drums, shock-absorbers, oil-filters, and the rack-and-pinion steering gear. The worm back axle is still a feature of the 404 saloons but the 1967 station wagons have hypoid-bevel back axles.

Apart from very minor irritations like the need to reach slightly to the left for the single-speed wipers’ knob, somewhat weak door “keeps,” a tap as one wiper blade fouled the screen-sill, and a spring-loaded fuel filler-cap which, although very easy to remove, defeated petrol station attendants, I have nothing but praise for this useful and practical Peugeot. It sells here for £1,378 inclusive of p.t. and will be on my next “short list.” – W. B.

Cars in books

From that very readable account of China, Oxford and the literary personalities he met and remembers so well, “Memories,” by C. M. Bowra (Weidenfeld & Nicholson, 1966), one would not expect to glean much about automobilism. But I had not read very far before I discovered that in 1912 Bowra’s parents, then living at “a house at Cookham Dean amid beech woods,” acquired a motor car, “an open Darracq, driven by a succession of evil-looking chauffeurs who seemed to encourage it to break down.” It did this when the Bowras visited their son at Cheltenham for Speech Day, and took him for a drive in the Cotswolds. They got back late by train and his father was so depressed that he spent the next morning in bed.

The author recalls a “motor tour of the Scottish Highlands in bright autumn weather,” soon after the Armistice, with R. H. Dundass, tutor in ancient history at Christ Church, who “was as careful of his own driving as he was critical of his sister’s.” Unfortunately, the make of car isn’t mentioned.

There is also an enlightening reference to what happened at Oxford when the governing body of the University was told that undergraduates used motor cars for love making – this was 1930-31. The Warden of New College was opposed to undergraduates keeping cars and endeavoured to persuade Council to instruct the Proctors to forbid their use. This was beyond the powers of Council, as Bowra and his colleague pointed out. Fisher, the Warden concerned, then said that Congregation must pass a decree to the same effect. Bowra replied that he would veto it. In a spirit of compromise a committee was set up to see what could be done but the matter was abandoned largely because A. S. L. Farquharson, a Fellow of University College, said early in the discussion: “You know, Mr. Vice-Chancellor, that if they wish to commit fornication, they can do so just as well by train.” I mention this, because all those undergraduates who enjoyed motoring in cars while at Oxford may not be aware how much they owed to Bowra and Farquharson. At the end of the book Oxford’s view of Lord Nuffield completes these fascinating reminiscences. – W.B.